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Tolling the Statute of Limitations; Prescription Medication

by | Jul 16, 2015 | Firm News, Workers' Compensation

Under the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act, there is an initial two-year statute of limitations, followed by a one year statute of limitations. The initial two-year statute of limitations requires the injured worker to either receive authorized medical or indemnity benefits, or file a Petition for Benefits seeking appropriate benefits, within two years of the date of their work comp accident. Thereafter, the statute is converted to a one-year statute of limitations. This means the individual must never allow a year or more to pass without receiving treatment from an authorized provider.

This blog post will discuss how authorized prescription medication has been used to toll the statute of limitations in Florida workers’ compensation cases.

Florida Statutes 440.19(2) states the following:

Payment of any indemnity benefit or the furnishing of remedial treatment, care, or attendance pursuant to either a notice of injury or a petition for benefits shall toll the limitations period set forth above for 1 year from the date of such payment. This tolling period does not apply to the issues of compensability, date of maximum medical improvement, or permanent impairment.

In the case of Vartimidis v. Walgreen Company/Sedgwick, the employer/carrier furnished medication prescribed by the authorized physician 23 months after the accident.[1] The employee filed a petition for benefits several months later, and the employer/carrier alleged the statute of limitations had run. The Judge found the medication had been inadvertently furnished and in doing so, imposed upon claimant the burden of demonstrating he detrimentally relied on the prescription. The JCC concluded claimant failed to demonstrate detrimental reliance on the inadvertently provided benefit and therefore the pending petition was barred by the statute of limitations. The First DCA disagreed, and found that because the medical benefit was furnished within two years of the date of accident, the SOL never expired and the petition filed within one year of the provision of benefits was timely. The court stated the following:

When an E/C furnishes an indemnity or medical benefit before the statute of limitations expires, the limitations period is extended for one year by operation of law pursuant to section 440.19(2). A claimant who files a proper petition for benefits within this one-year period has no need to assert waiver or estoppel against an E/C, or prove detrimental reliance upon an E/C’s mistake or inadvertence, to avoid dismissal based on the statute of limitations. Here, the E/C’s furnishing of a medical benefit extended the limitations period for one year from November 12, 2009. Consequently, the petition for benefits filed on February 8, 2010, was timely and the JCC erred in concluding it was barred by the statute of limitations. Accordingly, we reverse, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

As practitioners, we constantly advise our clients about his/her obligation to never allow a year or more to pass without receiving treatment from an authorized provider. If an individual’s case is stabilized, and he/she is receiving follow up care for his/her workers’ compensation injury, it is always good practice to only keep six to nine months between appointments. Things happen. Doctors get called into surgery, have to cancel appointments at the last minute, etc. If an injured worker only keeps six to nine months between appointments, he/she will never have to worry about “cutting it too close”. If you have questions about the statute of limitations, or general questions about workers’ compensation, contact one of our workers comp attorneys today for a free consultation. Our main office is in Tampa, but we have offices in Inverness to meet with clients at by appointment. We serve all counties in West Central Florida.

[1] Varitimidis v. Walgreen Co./Sedgwick Claims Mgmt. Serv. Inc., 58 So.3d 406 (Fla. App., 2011).